The good you do

“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know”
— WH Auden, poet

People my age believe they can do good in the world. They seek it out. They hope that they can spend their lives making a difference in the world. Heck, just look at the title of my blog. Something I realized relatively recently is that I also felt guilty because I didn’t think I was doing enough. That I hadn’t set up a future doing more. That maybe I wasn’t even really set up to be the do-gooder I want to be. That maybe I would spend my future being a money-hungry cog in the wheel.

It was really hard for me to wrestle between future-life-decisions. I didn’t think they did Good enough (not were good enough). I’m still trying to work it out, so let me know how it sounds—but what do you think about being ok with the little good things you do? The daily attempts to be a good or better person than you were before? Is that ok? Is that a cop out?

I was philosophizing with my friend Mark about it, and I told him I don’t think we people should feel guilty about the good they manage to do. That the quiet hard workers who help the community run does good for the world too. He told me he liked that idea. He told me that his father was so relieved when his minister gave a sermon that being a father was serving God. His father had felt guilty that he wasn’t about to help more people or to be spend more time with the church. He’d been working so hard to provide for his family. When he learned that it was ok to be ‘just’ a good father and husband…it made him feel more at peace.

How does that sound to you? I think we hear stories of people giving up everything and going out in the world and dedicating their lives to advancing this or that cause and we (I) feel selfish that we’re (I’m) not doing the same. It seems a little dirty to say “you don’t have to go that far.” Like a scape goat. At the same time, I believe in the every day heroics of being a positive member of a community.

zoo

At the zoo. That’s me with the drank.

Within the last year, my mom shyly asked if I had a good childhood. If she had been a good mom. I was like “What!?—Mom, yeah! I had a happy childhood.” I mean, I think there were parts of it that not all my classmates had to go through, but it seemed normal enough to me. She mentioned sometimes feeling bad that she couldn’t give us more or feeling like things ‘were always so tight.’ We’d do free things like go to the park, or to the zoo (she got an annual membership), or the library. We went to the library almost every week. My brother would get a huge stack of books, my sister would get a few art books, and I would get books about animals. I remember the library had old DOS computers where you’d type something like “A” to search by author. We invented games to play with each other, we explored outside. It was great. These were memories and experiences that shaped who I was. The things she felt conscious about I participated in readily.

My mom did the best she could. It would be sad for me to think of her efforts as anything less that than what we should all be working towards. She woke up, made us all breakfast, herded us to school. Cooked food for dinner. Worked all day. Made sure we ate. Cleaned the house. She was practically a single mother with the perk of having my father’s warm body to babysit us after we got home from school.

So maybe I’m just trying to justify a future that I’m starting to predict might be a quiet, well-mannered one in many ways. But maybe that’s how it starts. I’m excited to get back to a normal schedule where I’m not working around the clock. I was thinking that maybe I could volunteer at a library again since I had so much fun in Denver. I think about at least the small ways I can feel like I’m doing good.

You should never feel bad about the good you [can] do.

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